What are some common expenses in CT Personal Injury cases?
It’s a cool October morning in Connecticut. You get up early on a Sunday morning. The sun is just starting to rise. It is dawn. The grass has frost on it. There is a chill in the air. You’re happy you put the pellet stove on last night. The cabinets are bare but for kids cereal. It’s Sunday after all – grocery shopping day. The rest of the house is asleep. In a half hour or so, your son will wake up, ask you to turn on the TV and then ask you for a bowl of cereal.
Unable to accept a breakfast consisting of Honey Nut Cheerios and coffee you decide to get bagels. The local bagel place has fresh warm bagels waiting for you. And the cream cheese is fantastic. This is a better alternative than either cereal or waiting to go out to breakfast in a few hours.
So you brush your teeth, throw on your sweatpants, a hat, and your coat and head to the bagel store.
As you are driving the light turns red. No matter what time of day you go down the road that light always turns red as you approach. It’s like it knows. You begin fiddling with the car radio as you realize the sports station is discussing local golf courses – something that doesn’t interest you – something they put on the air to fill time early on a Sunday morning.
You glance at your rearview mirror and see a flash of color. It’s coming at you fast. And then the noise. You are thrown forward. You hit your head. You wonder if your car is on fire as there is smoke everywhere. Then you remember hearing something about when airbags go off people often think there’s a fire.
And that’s just the beginning. There’s an ambulance, a hospital, doctors, physical therapy, MRIs, talk of injections, and the possibility of surgery.
You have no choice but to make a claim against the other guy’s insurance company. And you know insurance companies don’t pay full value unless they’re forced to. So you hire an experienced CT personal injury attorney.
And the question you really want answered is “how much am I going to get from this?” Your lawyer throws around some general case value projections but they’re vague and filled with caveats. You know you are going to have to pay your lawyer a percentage. But there’s something in the fee agreement about expenses in a CT personal injury case.
You understand that gross settlement amount means little to you. So what if the case settles for $250,000 if there’s a $150,000 in expenses in addition to your lawyer’s fee. You’d get very little.
A lawyer’s goal must be to maximize the net recovery (the amount a client gets after expenses and fees). The discussion of expenses needs to happen from the first meeting and continue throughout the representation so there’s no surprises.
Some firms use investigators to do an intake. And a client starts a case a $1000 or so in the hole for the investigator fee. Other firms like ours do our own intakes meaning no cost to the client. Some firms charge for postage, copies, mileage, and legal research as expenses. We include those in our fee. And if we are going to incur travel expenses we discuss these with the client in advance.
Expenses increase in an injury case overtime. At the beginning the expenses are generally low. Closer to trial the expenses get higher.
Here Are Some Common Expenses In CT Personal Injury Cases
Medical providers do not turn over your medical records for free. And this is a current battlefield between CT Personal Injury firms and providers. Many providers insist on illegally charging $.65 a page. We use the following language in our requests to providers:
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. Section 17953(e)(2), the fee that you may charge for providing the requested documents in electronic form may not be greater than your labor costs in responding to this request. The HITECH Act directs that a patient shall have the right to obtain ELECTRONIC RECORDS for a REASONABLE COST-BASED FEE. This has been interpreted to mean $6.50 for a CD-ROM containing records, plus postage. Your fee should not exceed $20.00. If your fee is in violation of this law, a complaint will be made to the United States Department of Health.
You should insist on your attorney using such language. Medical records can be very expensive to obtain. And eat into your recovery. Sometimes, providers will not comply and it may be necessary to pay them in order to move your case forward.
Police reports are relatively inexpensive to obtain in Connecticut. And the cost generally ranges from $10 to $20.
In some but not all cases it is necessary to have an investigator obtain evidence. In order to make the evidence admissible in the event of a trial this person should not be either the attorney working the case or the injure party. An investigator would commonly take pictures of where the accident happened and get sworn witness statements. The cost of an investigator at this stage is usually between $300 to $750 depending on the scope of the investigation.
Cost of Serving and Filing A CT Personal Injury Law Suit
At the time of this writing in 2017, the cost to file a lawsuit in Connecticut is $360. Given the current state of CT’s budget it is likely this cost will rise in the future. But as of now, the cost of getting your case on the docket is $360. The cost of serving papers by a CT state marshal can range from as little as about $100 to as high as about $1000 depending on the number of parties involved and the distance a marshal has to travel. Papers in CT must be served by a marshal.
Jury Claim Fee
Defendants often pay the jury claim fee but sometimes they don’t. Some cases may be better before a judge and others before a jury. That is a strategic decision that must be made. The cost of a jury claim in Connecticut is $440.
It may be necessary to do depositions in a case. Depositions allow your attorney to find out what happened and have witnesses and defendants commit to statements under oath. They can be a very important tool in discovery. Depositions require court reporters and transcripts. And depending on the length of the deposition can run from about $350 to $1500 per deposition.
Experts are where cases can get really expensive. A case may need experts on liability, medicine, and/or damages. Doctors charge a lot for their testimony. We were recently quoted a rate by a doctor of $2000 an hour. Expert costs vary from field to field so it is impossible to give a range here. But this is a conversation you must have with your attorney.
Attorneys and clients need to have an ongoing discussion of costs on a file. They can really impact settlement value on a case. For example an offer of $10,000 presuit may net out the same money to the client as an offer of $15000 right before trial.
Our case management system allows us to share our expenses with our clients in real time. That way clients can always see what is being spent on their cases. This level of transparency makes for no unpleasant surprises. We believe knowledge is power. Here are some more questions you may wish to ask your attorney.